A long-standing fixture in Aspen’s underground, marijuana will celebrate a coming-out of sorts this week.
At last year’s Winter X Games in Aspen, the closest recreational marijuana shop to the extreme sporting action on Buttermilk’s slopes was at least 30 miles away.
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Today, locals in Aspen, where the X Games run through Sunday, often find themselves giving directions to tourists based on the town’s five downtown pot shops — one of which just opened this week.
“This will absolutely be the stoniest X Games yet,” said Rhett Jordan, who owns six Native Roots pot shops in Colorado — including a just-opened store in Aspen.
While tourists surely will find themselves posing for selfies in front of the town’s pot shops, locals are wondering how the presence of legal cannabis will be felt throughout the region during one of the year’s busiest weeks.
“Aspen has always been a pretty open community, so it’ll be interesting to see if anything has really changed, or it’s more upfront or what,” Silverpeak Apothecary owner Jordan Lewis said last week from his shop, which was one of the first pot stores open in Aspen. “I haven’t noticed the character of the town changing much. My guess: It’ll be more of a celebration this year for those folks feeling liberated to be able to legally purchase cannabis.”
With the bustling marijuana stores finally open in Aspen and an X Games concert lineup that includes two of the best-known pot advocates in pop culture — Snoop Doggand Wiz Khalifa — the 2015 Games will mark a specific point in history for Pitkin County.
“It symbolizes the change in Colorado over the last two years,” Jordan said.
But exactly what kind of ganjafication will Aspen undergo in the coming week? In addition to a 420-friendly music lineup that rivals that of any Cannabis Cup, many of the communities surrounding Aspen — Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs included — also have their recreational stores ready to service visiting athletes, fans and hangers-on with Colorado-grown cannabis.
A private, marijuana-fueled afterparty will keep the music pumping well past closing time for four consecutive nights during the X Games, with a recognizable guest list of athletes, celebs and pot industry elite. And at noon Jan. 23, Native Roots’ new Aspen location will launch a new-to-Colorado marijuana product, a THC-infused sex lube for ladies called Foria, by selling 100 bottles of the spray for a penny each.
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“The concentration of international people (at the X Games) is exciting,” said Foria founder Mathew Gerson, who flew in his southern California-rooted staff for the product’s Colorado launch at the X Games. “We’re all about generating and catalyzing a conversation about pleasure and wellness and letting people take that conversation back to their host countries.”
Pot’s unprecedented presence in Aspen won’t make for an absolute free-for-all. On one hand, the X Games’ drug-testing policy is nonexistent. The event does not drug-test athletes, a representative confirmed to The Denver Post.
On the other, it’s against X Games rules to have or use marijuana while in the event’s imprint, which includes the concert stage at Buttermilk’s base. And it’s against Colorado law to use cannabis in any public space, something Aspen’s police department will be keeping an eye on.
“We are emphasizing education,” said Aspen Police Department spokesperson Blair Weyer, also speaking on behalf of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. “The goal for law enforcement on the ground is to make sure that safety is being assured. It’s more of a peacekeeping goal.
“In the past, from a safety perspective, marijuana has not been as big of an issue as alcohol.”
At last year’s games, Aspen police made 38 contacts regarding marijuana — “which is a very small number,” said Weyer, “considering there were almost 40,000 people a day.” That number was up from about 10 pot-related contacts made during previous X Games, but the department hasn’t issued any marijuana citations during the past few years of the sports event, Weyer said.
“Just because it’s a big event does not mean we are out writing a bunch of citations,” Weyer said. “(The contacts made in the past were) all educational, just informing visitors that marijuana use is prohibited at the event. … It’s a legal substance, and people are going to use it. We are asking that people do it in the privacy of their own home.”
It could be argued that the X Games is adding to the mania by booking weed icons Snoop and Wiz as the entertainment, although event organizers say it wasn’t intentional.
“With our booking, we think about our brand and what music we feel will fit with the overall event that we’re trying to produce,” said Tim Reed, ESPN’s vice president of X Games events and content. “The list is pretty big, and we’re ultimately working on a lot of different parameters — who can come, who’s available, who will work — and we’re excited on the lineup we settled on.”
Snoop’s presence at “the stoniest X Games yet” is merely a coincidence, Reed said.
“The network itself, we’ve done a lot of different things with Snoop over the years,” Reed said. “He’s a cultural icon, and people know him. That’s the reason we booked him and wanted him.”
Flooding the streets
With 120,000 taste-making fans flooding Aspen’s streets during the X Games annually, Jordan knew his Native Roots pot shop had to open in time for the rush of tourism. But a late building permit meant he had only two weeks to get the space up and running — a fraction of the time he normally spends on a new storefront.
For now, Jordan is calling his Aspen location a “pop-up shop,” and he’ll close it down after the ski season in May to build the space out for next snow season and the next Winter X Games, which will stay in Aspen through 2019.
“The X Games is an international event,” Jordan said. “We’re opening a store here, and we want the world to see what we’re doing — especially because we feel that this genre of consumer is relevant to our industry.”
Jordan’s pot shop is the primary force behind the Native Roots Tree House afterparty at the X Games, a private four-night bash that will have DJ Snoopadelic (a.k.a. Snoop’s DJ persona) on the decks and plenty of cannabis to share inside a 9,200-square-foot space. Tree House organizer Munch and Company will transport three 18-wheelers full of gear, furniture and supplies from Denver to Aspen for the party.
“This is real branding,” said Freddie Wyatt, CEO of Munch and Company. “This would be something that you would see at Sundance or the Super Bowl or at the Grammies or Coachella or the Oscars. We’re playing in those budgets now, and it’s the same thing on talent. We’re bringing the A-game to Aspen for X Games.”
Of course, an event like the Tree House comes at a substantial expense.
“It’s a very heavy investment,” said Jordan, declining to talk actual numbers. “But the X Games are important, and the crossover between the action sports industry and the cannabis industry is undeniable. So no investment is too much.”
Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bruvs